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Son continues father’s legacy with W&M fellowship medallion

  • Like father, like son:
    Like father, like son:  Chris Stousland '76 poses for a photo with his father, Mik Stousland '41. Mik created the university's first two honorary fellowship medallions, and Chris has crafted the third for Glenn Close ’74, D.A. ’89.  Courtesy photo
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William & Mary’s Phi Beta Kappa Hall has been the setting for many beginnings, including the start of Glenn Close’s award-winning acting career. It was also the place where Mik Stousland ’41 met the woman who would be his wife, Betty Stousland ’42.

On Saturday, the couple’s legacy will quietly find its way into the university’s Commencement ceremony as Close ’74, D.A. ’89 receives W&M’s honorary fellowship medallion – designed and crafted by the Stouslands’ son, Chris, who graduated from W&M in 1976.

The honorary fellowship medallion crafted by Chris Stousland '76 (Courtesy photo)It is only the third such medallion ever presented by the university; the first two — given to Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1981 and Princess Margriet of the Netherlands in 1983 — were designed and crafted by Mik, who died in 2002.

“I was just excited to do it, plus it was a connection with my dad,” said Chris.

Chris said that creating the medallion for Close had special meaning because of his parents’ connections to W&M theatre. Mik was originally a theatre major, and from his scene design work, he became interested in architecture. Betty, an English major, was the secretary of the fine arts department in World War II.

After graduating, Mik earned degrees from Yale and Rice and became a celebrated architect, sculptor, printmaker and silversmith, known for his uniquely designed pins and pendants. He was also a much-beloved professor and chair of the architecture department for Miami University in Ohio. Some of his most well-known creations include his “name pins,” which feature characters made from the letters of someone’s name. Mik received an alumni medallion from W&M in 1975.

“My dad was just a cool guy,” said Chris. “I’m a little biased, but my dad was just a really fun person. Some of those artists in World War II, they kind of lived through that and then experienced this joy of life afterwards – he was amazing.”

Following in his dad’s footsteps, Chris became interested in art and architecture at a young age. However, he didn’t want to teach or create jewelry, so he developed an interest in printmaking — a skill that he thinks helped get him into W&M.

Mik Stousland '41 at work (Courtesy photo)At the university, Chris majored in fine arts and focused on painting. He also played on the tennis team, but most of his time he spent studying, he said.

“I would automatically get As in art classes because I had been doing that since I was a little kid with my dad, but everything else I had to work at,” said Chris.

After graduating from W&M, Chris pursued graduate degrees at the University of New Mexico and Arizona University and fell in love with the Southwest. He has lived there since, working as an artist focused on painting and continuing his father’s legacy through his company, Stousland Jewelry.

When Michael Fox, senior assistant to the president and secretary to the Board of Visitors at W&M, contacted Chris about crafting a medallion for Close and sent him a picture of one that his father had created, Chris immediately knew where to find the design.

“I’ve got all his sketchbooks,” said Chris. “I recognized that right away, and I found the sketch for it. It was pretty easy to just redo that. I kind of cleaned it up a little, but it’s pretty close to the original.”

One of the medallions crafted by Mik Stousland '41 (Courtesy photo)The medallion features the university’s coat of arms, which was issued to in 1694 by the College of Arms in London. It includes a depiction of buildings with the sun shining above it. The original medallions included some gold at the top of the design in the sun. Chris removed that and then cleaned up the outline of the buildings. The process to create the medallion took a couple of weeks, mostly due to the material that was used.

“I had to order the silver special — it was 12-gauge silver — then cut it out,” he said. “Most of the work on that is the hand engraving, which is something I don’t do a whole lot of. I just kind of figured out a system for doing it, and it worked pretty well. So I’ve learned a lot from it, too.”

The honorary fellowship is the highest honor that a college of Royal Charter can confer and a tradition for English institutions of royal founding. Close, who is this year’s W&M Commencement speaker, will receive the fellowship medallion during the May 11 ceremony in Zable Stadium.